When President Lincoln established the national holiday of thanksgiving in 1863, he originally called it, “A day of Thanksgiving and Praise to our beneficent Father who dwelleth in the Heavens.”
We’ve understandably shortened the name since then, but it is worth remembering that there is an object of our thanks-giving.
Seventy four years earlier, when Washington issued his 1789 Thanksgiving Proclamation, he said it this way:
Now, therefore, I do recommend and assign Thursday, the 26th day of November next, to be devoted by the people of these States to the service of that great and glorious Being who is the beneficent author of all the good that was, that is, or that will be; that we may then all unite in rendering unto Him our sincere and humble thanks… for all the great and various favors which He has been pleased to confer upon us.
Thanks must always be given to someone, and for something. In the foundation of the holiday for American Thanksgiving, Washington is making the day’s purpose clear: We are to be thankful to God (whoever we believe He is) and thankful for his manifest blessings and favors in our lives.
Taking liberty to paraphrase Washington’s declaration, here is the original purpose of American Thanksgiving:
Let us as a nation take one day each year to thank God for His many blessings and ask for His continued guidance.
We thank God for His many blessings…
- For His protection of our nation
- For the peace we now enjoy
- For the new government He has established
- For our personal liberties and freedoms
- And for all the individual favors He has given us.
… and ask for His continued guidance.
- To pardon our transgressions and shortcomings
- To enable us to work hard for our family and community
- To make our government a blessing, not a curse
- To protect and enlighten our leaders
- To promote the practice of true religion and virtue
- And to bring prosperity to our nation
Sometime this week we should all take a minute to thank God for these blessings and ask for His wisdom and guidance.
Extra Credit – Last Thursday was also the 153rd anniversary of Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address. Get your extra credit points from today’s post here.